- What Makes Racial Diversity Work in Higher Education: Academic Leaders Present Successful Policies and Strategies
What Makes Racial Diversity Work in Higher Education: Academic Leaders Present Successful Policies and Strategies is a volume of 17 widely diverse chapters that in combination seek to establish the case for diversity, illuminate some of the challenges, present successful models, and highlight different approaches based on historical and institutional context. The book also seeks to present the efforts and personal narratives of some of the exemplary and long-time practitioners in the field. Kirwan and Hale set the stage for the chapters that follow by bringing both an historical and educational focus to the imperative of diversity. Hale's reflections on the erratic course of dealing with race in higher education and the inadequacy of simply providing access are themes that permeate the other chapters as well.
The core of the book focuses on practices that impact student success with interesting and potentially useful descriptions of a variety of programmatic initiatives.
Clarence Williams describes the history and efforts to bring diversity to MIT, noting some of the apparent successes and failures. Antoinette Miranda provides a personal perspective on engaging diversity efforts in the School of Education at Ohio State while Mac Williams describes institution-wide approaches, also at Ohio State. Ric Turner, using data as well as program descriptions, highlights the student success focus at the University of Virginia where the graduation rate for African American students was, at the time, 87%. Lee Jones describes the development of a multicultural student services office including an outline for a retention plan at Washington State University.
Three chapters focus on the principles associated with student success that provide the foundation for many of these programs. Freeman Hrabowski brings his considerable experience and perspective to the lessons learned on achieving success for underrepresented students of color especially in math and science. Joann Moody's chapter is the sole chapter focusing on graduate student success and brings together, in a nice summary, the principles she has developed for working with graduate students of color, also in the sciences. Samuel Betances summarizes the role of (presumably) white faculty in "How To Become An Outstanding educator of Hispanic and African American First-Generation College Students."
A result of reading these disparate chapters on student success, is that the principles of good practice for underrepresented students are clearly aligned to fundamentals of excellence in education: high expectations, belief in students' capacity, mentoring and other supports, and institutional commitment to student success. However, because so many of the chapters focus on programmatic initiatives concerned with student success, there is a risk that the [End Page 581] reader will assume that the answer to best practices for diversity rests on program development. A careful reading of a the cumulative message of this text suggests, rather, that while programs focusing on different aspects of diversity will be important, they need to be understood in the context of institutionally-driven approaches that are linked to mission, leadership, diversity at all levels, institutional planning, and evaluation.
By including reprints of Rudenstine's history of diversity at Harvard along with Carlos Cortes' "Limits to Pluralism, Limits to Unum," some key conceptual and historical material is represented. Rudenstine's paper reminds the reader of the important connection between diversity and mission, the role of diversity in the history of Harvard (and presumably at other institutions), the limits of SAT for many groups of students, and that the impact of diversity will not always be smooth for institutions or students. For example, in discussing President Eliot's views on diversity at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, Rudenstine notes that Eliot was no sentimentalist. "He knew that diversity can cause friction and turbulence and can sometimes make the experience of being a student more difficult and even more alienating" (p. 67).
Kivel's short essay on power and embedded privilege is a useful...